Education Matters - News impacting schools, teachers and students

What is social media and how can it be useful for teachers?

Social media for educators is a world of new ideas and resources. Teacher and social media guru Meridith Ebbs has compiled a handy guide for those trying to navigate their way in the social media world.

Social media is everywhere. You can follow the news anchor on Twitter, you ‘friend’ morning shows Sunrise or Today on Facebook and the feeds are displayed in a ticket tape along the bottom of the screen. Advertising screams follow us. Marketing and business has discovered the power of social media yet many teachers have not. Social media for educators is a world of new ideas and resources – it makes people accessible and it is possible to ‘tweet’ a person you admire and get a response.

What is the fascination with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and so on? Social media definitely has its critics but it also has its place. It is a way to connect with people you don’t see any more and with like-minded strangers. The key factor for social media being useful is balance – balancing time online, time away from family and privacy. It is important not to over share. Followers are not so interested in 50 snaps of your little treasures and personal friends are not interested in the events of your day-to-day work life. One way to overcome this problem is to divide your social media into two domains. An example may be to use Facebook for your private social media account and Twitter for your public but professional account.

Social media is a valuable tool for teachers as it offers a way to connect with like-minded professionals and share resources and ideas. It also offers an opportunity for debate and sharing ideas that challenge and improve your professional practice.

If you choose to be online, you need to check your ‘feed’ and tweet or post regularly. You need to monitor your profile as an abandoned online profile is more of a security risk to you if it is not used. People are more likely to follow and interact with an active account.

Many teachers have started Twitter accounts for their classroom. The teacher is the account owner, preferably with their school email. It is then possible to for students as young as Kindergarten to compose the tweet that is to be posted. This may include pictures of artwork or activities in the classroom. To overcome privacy issues, parents should be required to give permission to allow the use of student images. If you are still concerned, take photos of a student’s shoulder or of hands while working, this will reduce the number of faces posted online. Never post an image with a full name as this compromises student privacy.

This article is about the professional development of teachers through social media and its personal use. This article does not investigate or discuss the benefits of using social media in the classroom, and the benefits of digital citizenship for students.

What the twitter is that?

Twitter is a social media website. Twitter has a reputation for being used by celebrities ‘tweeting’ events and photos. Twitter is a tool that can be used by teachers to interact with other professionals, locate resources and answer questions, and it is also used for microblogging. A tweet consists of 140 characters and spaces and therefore is a quick way to share information. Due to the length of characters people often use abbreviations and shorten URLs by using tools that are discussed later in the article.

Professional Learning Networks (PLN)

A professional learning network is sometimes referred to as a PLN. PLNs can be people you work with or know personally, offline contacts or they may be people you haven’t met and only contact virtually through a mail list or social media. A PLN may consist of current or past colleagues, acquaintances from other schools in a similar role to you, or people you have connected with online.

The benefit of a PLN is it gives an extended international network of people who are willing to help and assist you. PLNs provide resources, links and ideas that can be used immediately or stored for another time.

When attending conferences and inter-school events PLNs go offline. Meeting an online contact at a conference is an opportunity to further develop relationships that go beyond the classroom.

How to get ‘followers’

To get followers you need to be active on Twitter and tweet regularly. Twitter teachers are very generous and will often recommend users to follow and will often follow back.

To get the most out of twitter you need to:

• Update your profile;
• Change your profile picture from an egg (to show you didn’t just hatch);
• Interact with other users;
• Retweet things you like with acknowledgement;
• Blog and share a link;
• Tweet regularly;
• Share photos and memes;
• Share tips and tricks to get organised or complete a task; and,
• Share a link to a useful site.

If you think other users will be interested in your tweet you can add a photo and tag them. People who are tagged are likely to retweet or quote your tweet. This will in turn share your tweet with their followers.

I don’t have time

The main reason often cited for not joining social media is, “I don’t have time”. Everyone has the same amount of time and it comes down to priorities. To fit Twitter into a busy schedule you could check your Twitter feed while:

• Waiting… for transport, in a queue or for a late friend;
• 10 mins at lunch break; or,
• Get up 10 mins earlier.

The benefit of Twitter is that you don’t have to read every item in your twitter feed. You can skim through your feed for tweets that catch your eye by simply:

• Checking the feed of your favourite tweeter;
• Checking your favourite ‘hashtag’ or ‘channel’ – e.g.: #aussieED; or by,
• Creating a list of favourite people.


When tweeting, to increase the number of people who see your tweets you can add hashtags. Hashtags are sometimes referred to as channels and they are used at large events, by organisations and by groups with the same interests, online. Hashtags are also used on Twitter for ‘tweet meets’ or chats. These are events that are held at regular times on Twitter and usually go for an hour. A moderator will post a series of questions at regular intervals during the hour-long chat. The questions stimulate discussion on the topic, which leads to pictures, links, resources, stories and more questions. Some popular chats on education are listed below. There are many more lists for specialty areas in English, History, PD/H and languages. To find more chats you can ask fellow tweeters or do a Google search.

Popular education chats can be found on all key learning areas (KLAs) and areas of education:

Sunday 7:30 AEST #includEDau
Sunday 8:30pm AEST #aussieED AussieED

Friday 9:00am AEST #whatisschool Craig Kemp and Laura Hill @MrKempnz and @candylandcaper

Tuesday 2nd Tuesday each month at 8pm AEDT #ozcschat Phillip Cooke @sailpip

Saturday 9-10:30 AEST #satchatoc Andrea Stringer @stringer_andrea

A slow chat is one that goes over several hours, days or a week:

@EduTweetOz #edutweetoz Corinne Campbell, Cameron Malcher @corisel, @Capitan_Typo

People you must follow – just to get you started:

Meridith Ebbs (Australia) Teacher, eLearning, Speaker Education, pedagogy, innovative teaching practice @iMerinet

Kim Sutton Teacher, co-moderator #aussieED Education @TeachMissSutton

Nick Brierley (Australia) Teacher, co-moderator #aussieED Education, innovative practice @mythisizer

Zeina Chalich (Australia) Teacher, co-moderator #aussieED Education, innovative practice @zeinachalich

Eric Sheninger (USA) Past Principal, Speaker Leadership, management styles @E_Sheninger

Jackie Child (Australia) Librarian Makerspace, library, digital literacy @jackie_child

Ian Jukes (Canada) Education Evangelist @ijukes

Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (Australia) Resources for implementing curriculum @aitsl

Teachers Education Review Podcast (Australia) Australian podcast discussing issues in education. Issues in education from the perspective of classroom teachers. @TERpodcast

EduTweetOZ (Australia) New host each week Varies depending on the hosts interests @Edutweetoz

Super-Awesome Sylvia (USA) Started her own YouTube channel at 8yo Maker Movement @MakerSylvia

Sylvia Martinez (USA) Speaker, education evangelist Maker Movement, Education @smartinez

Tips and tricks

URL shorteners

Twitter has a limit of 140 characters and spaces. This makes posting long URLs difficult. To overcome the character limit URL shorteners are used such as to link to websites.

To create the shortened link above:

• Go to;
• Paste the web address (URL) for the original site, to be shortened into the box at the top of the page;
• A screen will appear on the right side of the page and click on Copy; and,
• Paste the link into your tweet.

It is possible to customise the end of the link. It is also possible to download shorteners like as apps to iPads and mobile phones. This allows you to shorten URLs while using a mobile device.

Fitting it in

To fit long messages into 140 characters use the following acronyms:

• f2f – face to face
• brb – be right back
• Ts – teachers
• Ss – students
• Use + for and


Meridith Ebbs is a teacher St Columba Anglican School, Port Macquarie, New South Wales. She has a blended role, teaching classes from years 2-10 and working as an eLearning integrator to support the eLearning programs and teacher professional development within the school.

Meridith is a key staff member of the Professional Excellence and Innovation Centre, Port Macquarie. She develops and facilitates conferences and workshops. Meridith acts as a consultant in digital citizenship, the use of technology to enhance 21st century pedagogies and social media. Meridith is a moderator of a MOOC for Adelaide University and speaks at conferences on coding, technology and pedagogy.

Meridith is interested in computational thinking, coding and the maker movement. She is working on increasing the participation of girls in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) at all levels.

Meridith blogs regularly and can be followed on Twitter and Google Plus. She also curates resources on computational thinking and coding.
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Boosting Indigenous school attendance creatively

A unique pilot program implemented in remote Aboriginal communities has overcome many challenges surrounding school attendance that have been a part of the Indigenous education landscape since its inception in Australia.

The Learning on Country program, launched in 2013, involves community leaders and Indigenous rangers that teach students about customary knowledge, culture and literacy and numeracy. It has so far has been rolled out across five Arnhem Land sites – Maningrida, Yirrkala, Laynhapuy Homelands (Yirrkala), Groote Island and Galiwin’ku (Elcho Island).

A review of the program, led by Dr William Fogarty from The Australian National University’s National Centre for Indigenous Studies (NCIS), found the Learning on Country pilot program had improved school attendance and engagement from both students and communities.

He said the first two years of the trial has seen remarkable enthusiasm from all sectors including governments, teachers, educators, students and the community.

“We kind of lost our way around some of the school attendance issues in Indigenous communities and increasingly the policy approach has been much more stick than carrot, particularly in remote Australia where we saw things like SEAM trials which linked attendance to welfare payments – and we’ve seen the Northern Territory introduce some reasonably draconian approaches to getting students to school by punishing parents.

“Where the Learning on Country program differs is that it actually begins by going, ‘Well, what are the types of learning that are local place value and with that as a starting point how do we think about the rest of the learning?’ and then the attendance becomes an outcome of good pedagogy rather than draconian policy.”

The program, which aims to make school more relevant to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in remote areas, uses a local Indigenous knowledge base to engage students with their own culture, identity and place, and then uses that as a platform for wider education.

“The Learning on Country program grows out of a fairly long tradition of Indigenous land and sea management programs that have been really successful right across the top end, from the Kimberley through to the Cape,” Fogarty said. “In places where engaging Indigenous students is difficult or where it hasn’t had a good track record, good teachers look around for what’s working locally and they partner up with it. So schools and Indigenous ranger groups have been working together in places for the last 15 years or so in a very ad hoc way.

“The Learning on Country project is a grass roots community-based approach to generating an education program where four communities got together and decided they wanted to put something far more structured, sustainable and permanent around this notion of Learning on Country, and so they got together, formed a steering committee, engaged with government to get some funding, and that was the genesis of the four pilot trials that I’ve been working with recently.”

Fogarty says the program is a model of learning that’s engaging part of the whole community in teaching and also changes the dynamic between teachers and students because it positions the conversation more about what learning is being selected, who’s doing the selecting and how to balance that knowledge.

“Learning on Country begins with the idea that local Indigenous custodians and landowners have a wealth of knowledge about place, and of course the community value that knowledge greatly, so we begin with them as the teacher,” Fogarty said. “It changes the power relationship between teacher and student as well, because the students actually know quite a bit and the teachers often, particularly if they’re non-Indigenous teachers, don’t know very much at all about that place.

“Then the Indigenous rangers themselves become the next element in the pedagogy cycle; they become the next teachers, if you like. And then you’ve got scientists that come in and do some western science with the students, and he teachers bring it all together in the classrooms.”

While the program’s educational outcomes are paramount, Fogarty says it’s not only the curriculum outcomes but also about community wellbeing, individual student’s growth and setting up pathways for their future.

“The curriculum outcomes are at the core, but there’s a whole host of other more socio-cultural outcomes that are just as important that come out of the program,” he said. “The communities understand the need for curriculum outcomes, but they also want to make sure that some of their own knowledge and approaches are valued in the education that their school students are getting.”

Fogarty says he hopes the program’s model can be rolled out to other communities across Australia.


Collaboration driving teacher professional learning

Teachers need to continually build their skills, be cognisant of new technologies and ideas, as well as engage with other education professionals in order to ride the tides of best and next practice in their chosen career, write Andrew Napier, Jodi Gordon-Moulds and Troy Thompson.

Read more

Step 6 in digital marketing success: How to use email marketing effectively

In this article, we’ll discuss how to use email marketing for your school, and some of the lessons I have learned from being involved in hundreds of email marketing campaigns over the last fifteen years. If you haven’t yet, I encourage you to read the first four parts of this series: step 1step 2step 3step 4 and step 5.

Email works best when it is time relevant, better read and personal

I remember the days of the weekly printed newsletter, still warm and with that smell straight from the gestetner machine (that’s shown my age, hasn’t it?). Let’s skip forward to 2015, and now email is integral to most people’s lives.

This article will discuss ways in which your school can effectively use email to communicate better and faster with lower costs.

Have your emails read, not ignored

A great email adds value, is personalised, and timely.

Think about your own email behaviour, and which emails you open and which you delete before even reading.

The first goal we need to accomplish is have the recipient not delete your email, but rather open it and read it. There are five factors at play here;

What is in your emails? If they are not relevant, they will quickly become discarded. If you send irrelevant material to the wrong list too often, when you send something relevant, don’t expect anyone to read it.

It is easy with mail systems to break your audience into lists, so parents of primary students get one email, parents of high school students get another, and when a whole of school email needs to go out, send it to both lists at the same time.

Great email marketing software lets you test different versions of emails out, to maximise your open rates, and other goals. This is typically called A/B split testing.

Let’s look at the day and time received. For many, Monday morning is ‘go through a huge pile of emails, and cull viciously’ time, and Friday afternoons is ‘Think about weekend, ignore any emails coming in’ time. We know this by looking at statistics from our email marketing over the last few years.

We know most emails have a better chance of getting opened if they are sent Tuesday to Thursday. This is an old trick from back in direct mail days; people don’t respond well on Mondays and Fridays, as they do mid-week.

Another factor is how frequently you send them. More than weekly can be a nuisance, and less than quarterly means they are likely to forget who you are (unless your ‘from address’ is clearly their child’s school).

The ‘from’ address is vital. If I send an email to you from ‘Miles Burke’, there’s a greater chance of opening it, than if I were to send it as ‘Company you haven’t heard of’. In school situations, having the principal’s name or the school’s name increases open rates.

Subjects make all the difference

Lastly, and one of the most important factors, is the subject line. Instead of ‘News from school’, we have found that ‘Swimming Carnival Thursday, new term planner and school news’ works much better. It shows that there’s real content, not just yet another news item.

Even better, insert the recipient’s name in the subject line. We are all driven by ego to a degree; seeing your name in the email subject is a magnet to opening it.

Instead of;

‘Swimming Carnival Thursday, new term planner and school news’

Why not try out some personalisation in the subject, by using;

‘Miles, there is a swimming carnival this Thursday, new term planner and school news’

How to measure your email success

If you aren’t measuring your email, you are sending out blindly. Any good system will allow you to see who is opening your emails, and when. The absolutely worst way to send out newsletters or other emails is to use Outlook or your mail program; you don’t get an insight into who is actually receiving them, who is opening them, which ones are being trapped by software, or even worse, bounced because recipients’ details have changed.

Using your own mail program means you get all the bounces, and have to manually subscribe and unsubscribe people – not to mention the load on your IT infrastructure!


Sending emails is easy and if done right, very effective. They are great for time pertinent information, and are much cheaper to send than even the fastest photocopier or printer.

There’s even the inevitable loss in children’s school bags to consider as well!

Miles Burke is an Author, Public Speaker and Managing Director of Perth-based digital agency, Bam Creative. His team has created websites and digital marketing campaigns for dozens of schools, and their work has been featured in the media, won plenty of awards and most of all, helped schools demystify the digital marketing space to attract enrolments and better communicate to their communities.


Learning doesn’t get any bigger than this

Jonny Samengo, Executive Officer of Indigenous Education at The Scots College, Sydney, writes about a learning experience like no other.

The evening sky is immense, streaked with pink and purple. It meets the water with a dash of orange and cobalt blue. The hot, immense sun sinks slowly into the horizon. It feels like the water will sizzle and boil when the sun touches it. For some reason, the sun seems bigger, hotter and more powerful than we have ever seen before. Six teenage boys line the shore, looking in all directions and taking in the sheer scale of everything around them. Bigger, bolder, stronger, hotter. The silence is broken by the words ‘Hey boys, no backs to the water!’ The boys suddenly remember their lesson from earlier on in the day and spring round to face the ocean and sunset.

The lesson wasn’t about how to observe the onset of dusk, or how to take a good snap of a sunset, it was about a snap of another kind. Crocodiles. Never, ever, turn your back on the water, as you never know when one of those prehistoric, supersized creatures will get you. As they say, it’s not the crocs you can see that you should worry about, it’s the ones you can’t see.

Now, you don’t get to learn that in a Sydney classroom.

However, in many ways, this is a class room, just a very interactive, large one. These boys soaked up everything about Aboriginal culture; the moiety system, songlines, language, dance and history. In true Aboriginal style, these are not learned in separate classes, but all bound up together in a cultural unison that is simply breathtaking in being so holistic, delicate, intelligent and spiritual.

Where is this and how do I get there, I hear you ask. Well, it is in North East Arnhem Land and Culture College can take you there, accommodate you, teach you and even feed you too. All you need to be is a school age student with a willing school and thoughtful parents.

I run Indigenous Education at The Scots College in Sydney and we have 20 Indigenous boys on scholarship. Around half of these boys are from the Northern Territory. These brave, charming, energetic young men have captivated the attention of fellow Scots students and parents alike and have created a great demand to visit up North and find out more about these boys, their families, land and culture.

Culture College arranged the whole trip. Based out of Nhulunbuy, the College has taken over one of the old mine accommodation blocks in town and from there, we joined up with other local Tour operators, who scooped us all up in a 4×4 bus and took us, amongst other places to Nyinyikay, a very remote homeland of the Yolngu people. There we had a blissful four days and three nights of making spears, fishing, weaving, exploring and learning so many facets of Yolngu culture. Culture College have set up seasonal tents that house 4 students per tent in proper beds and standing room. Hot showers and flushing toilets are a short walk away (being careful to dodge the scurrying hermit crabs) and food is on constant supply, provided by the tour group. Cereal, toast and pancakes for breakfast, wraps for lunch and chicken and rice for dinner and variations on that theme.

If your school doesn’t do trips like this, tell them about Culture College. Maybe you will be lucky enough to join them on the trip as well. I’m sure you never thought you would end up back in a classroom, but you will be glad for this outdoor version. All who go will come back with great experiences, stories and learnings. Above all you will come back with a great respect for the Yolngu people and a renewed appreciation of what it means to share this great country with the oldest civilization on earth. Lucky us. We can all learn from that.

Culture College is an Arnhem Land-based Indigenous cultural and outdoor education immersion program tailored for secondary school students and designed to simultaneously educate and inspire our ‘leaders of tomorrow’ and to invigorate the local homeland economies in the Northern Territory.


The ultimate thermoplastic playground markings

At Project Playgrounds our aim is to encourage outdoor activity by making the school playground a vibrant, stimulating, educational and fun place to be.

New to the Australian market, but bought over from the UK where it has been installed in well over 700 schools, our product is without a doubt the future of playground markings.

Made from thermoplastic, the designs are initially cut out and then applied to concrete, bitumen, tarmac surfaces using heat to bond the thermoplastic with the ground.

Our thermoplastic markings require no maintenance – therefore saving your school money – and will become a capital investment for your school.

We can start applying our markings at the first bell and by lunch time the children can play! There is no need to wait till school holidays or wait for paint to dry, rendering your playground useless.

Far superior to paint, our vibrant markings bring to life any dull concrete surface and renew the look of your school.

The key feature of thermoplastic is its durability. Our markings are long lasting – they don’t fade and will last as long as the surface they are put on.

In addition, our markings are safe, non-toxic, UV stable and have anti slip properties – unlike paint which becomes extremely dangerous in wet weather when it is old and peeling.

We have all the traditional designs but can also create bespoke markings such as school logos or any other unique design.

The results are stunning and will delight your students! They are a hit with both students and teachers and our numeracy and literacy focused markings allow the classroom to be taken outside.

Give your children the playground they deserve and give us a call! 1800 264 307 or email us at for further information.